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When I was a newspaper reporter I never described a crook as bold, or brazen, bandit. Criminals to my mind are scum. There are no excuses. The bleeding hearts always seem the least likely to be victims of crime. And the people who want most to see the thugs jailed are their neighbours, the most likely to be those preyed upon. I was seldom allowed to say in my articles what I really thought of those behind the crimes. I writing about. Sometimes I could get away with the odd knife wielding thug. But I never used a term that suggested any admiration. Not even an "ingenious".

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I've heard a couple of news reports that suggested that simply because there were no criminal charges that means that the person arrested hadn't done anything wrong. And therefore the police had been heavy handed and had over reacted. So, if the police want to avoid that accusation they should charge everyone? The media pundits want people to have criminal records, even when there are better ways of dealing with them? It's a crazy old world when giving someone a break means you end up being castigated.

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In the Old Days juries had the power to have a man hanged. I sometimes wonder if we should have super panels of folk recruited in much the same way as a jury run the country. Could a gang of randomly selected citizens run the country better than elected members of parliament? Maybe a better question would be could they do worse? Probably not. Getting elected takes money. That money comes from somewhere and the people who provide it expect a return on their investment.  Also, power corrupts. So perhaps it would be fairer on all concerned if the exercise of power was limited to a period five years, when the next parliamentary panel is selected. And having no need to fixate on the short term as politicians all too often do, we might see some projects and policies which look beyond the next election.  Plus we'd probably get a wider breadth of knowledge and skills than presently provided by the political hacks and former lawyers who dominate the elected legislatures.

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I heard a woman interviewed on the BBC World Service who was being applauded for fulfilling her childhood ambition of being a war correspondent. It made me uneasy. Would she have received the same adulation if she had said that since she was a child she had wanted to report fatal traffic accidents? I've encountered war reporters in Kosovo and Afghanistan. I was very seldom impressed by them. I can't do better than quote the American journalist and war reporter Martha Gellhorn. "Wars are frightful, wicked things, and anyone who wants to specialize in reporting them is either a charlatan or else lacks a scintilla of humanity."

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Years ago I heard a Scottish teacher interviewed on Canadian radio about how she spent every summer on Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia. At the time a number of Scottish people had realised that Cape Breton was a bit like of a Gaelic world captured in aspic. Some of the Gaelic folk traditions on the island had almost died out back in Scotland. Fiddling was big. Cape Breton had absorbed a lot of Highland immigrants in the 19th Century, many ending up as coal miners and steel workers. This Scottish teacher was a Gaelic speaker. She could tell by the variety of Gaelic spoken in various parts of Cape Breton where people's ancestors came from. One village obviously had been settled by folk from Lewis while a neighbouring community was evidently settled by people from Skye, etc. This was in the early 1990s. Sadly, I suspect the number of Gaelic speakers on Cape Breton has by now drastically shrunk.

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